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Utilities Brace for Delinquent Accounts

Monday October 24th, 2005 Delinquent Cold Borgerding

With frost in the forecast, Gas and electric companies are bracing for more delinquent customer accounts. The price of natural gas has nearly doubled since last year, so utilities are using a combination of broadcast ads to give energy saving tips and promoting government help programs to keep customers paying on time.

Central Ohio residents have already noticed an increase in their heating bills. Columbia Gas of Ohio spokesman Douglas Flowers, says October bills increased by more than 30 percent over last year to an average of 53 dollars this October.

The bills will get steeper in January and February when average monthly bills could go as high as 370 dollars. With heating bills rising rapidly, utilities are offering budget payment plans and urging customers to conserve. American Electric Power, for the first time in several years, bought radio ads, offering energy saving tips including a suggestion to keep thermostats at 68 degrees, wear sweaters, and consider snuggling.

But, for many Central Ohio residents the cost of heat this winter will overwhelm them financially. Gennette Charlton lives in a northside apartment building that has little insulation. Last week, Charleton walked to a food pantry on North Fourth Street to help reduce her grocery bill. and, She gets federal government, but it pays only part of her utility bills.